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Random Ramblings and Motherhood

Well, hello there!

*stretches fingers and warms them up over the keyboard*

Oh, where to start? Really I’m not quite sure, but I have so many thoughts floating through my head. I’m here and it’s been a long while and I’m sorry about that. Let’s see if I can rewind to kind of explain what was going on in my life to catch you up.

In 2015 I found out I was expecting my second baby. That was such a thrill and a joy — for those of you who’ve been around awhile, you know that me getting pregnant isn’t easy so there were lots of doctors appointments and fertility and shots involved. It all gets a little bit overwhelming and maybe that’s where it started. So much pent up frustration that my body doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. For some time, though, I was slipping with my reading. I just couldn’t catch up or read as much as I wanted to, nor was I connecting to what I was reading.

I felt like I was reading a lot of lemons.

And maybe that’s a reflection of me? I got very caught up in the world of blogging and reviewing and I’m a people-pleaser to my core so when I accepted a book for review, I wanted to make sure I was going to follow through and get it done. If I reflect back on who I was as a reader when Rather be Reading first began, though, I was never a list reader. I never knew what was coming next. I chose by feeling and what I wanted to read at the time. Over the course of so many years that had changed and inevitably, so did my feelings about reading. It became a chore.

So with my pregnancy and being tired and having to take progesterone that just made me want to vomit, the disconnect between reading and me grew to the size of the Grand Canyon. I tried to read friends’ absolute favorite reads. I tried re-reading Harry Potter. I tried switching to adult books instead of YA. Nothing worked. I found myself not even wanting to talk to my best friend about books because I just felt lost in my reading life.

Everett with her newborn baby sister, Gentry

Life continued to happen. We stepped in when our former foster daughter’s family became homeless. I found myself in my third trimester of pregnancy taking care of our biological daughter, E, and two little girls through the Safe Families Program. We had a 3-year-old, 2-year-old, and 1-year-old in our house and exhaustion was etched into every crevice of my being. It’s not the mere fact that we were chasing three active children — this story runs much deeper and for their privacy as well as my own, I’ll just simply say that I’ve never shed more tears or felt like I’d been called to this great task to do something I felt so ill-prepared for. (And thank goodness we had an army of people around us who would literally let me cry out all my frustrations and offered so much help.)

We transitioned very quickly from being parents to three girls to back to only Everett with a few remaining weeks before our second baby was due. It felt like such a whirlwind experience and I really needed to soak up as much of my baby as I could because she handled our October to January transition very, very well, but I knew bringing a baby home from the hospital might not be easy on her, especially after all of that.

We tried taking photos in a field of bluebonnets. It wasn’t a very successful trip, but oh, I love this photo!

Gentry arrived at the end of January and … I don’t know how far to really go into all of this. I’m sure I’ll save some details for later, but have you ever lived through something and thought that things were going okay, only to look back and think, “Holy crap! That was so much harder than I realized!” That’s precisely how I feel about our last year. (Gentry just turned one a few weeks ago.) Motherhood is just hella hard. I don’t know if we’ll have any more biological babies, but breastfeeding and recovery and this feeling of losing myself a little bit to a human who so depends on my livelihood is really difficult. I’ve never thought, in the midst of things, that I suffered from post-partum depression, but with both of my babies, there’s been this moment of feeling like I’m coming up for a breath of fresh air after spending a really long time underwater, fighting for my life.

Working on raising some little readers!

Maybe there’s more going on than I’ve ever realized, but I’m finally at that refreshed and renewed part of my life. I feel like I’m taking care of myself and liking who I see in the mirror. I don’t feel like I’m floundering and that quite so much is out of control anymore. I’m happy with work (forgot to mention that I also started a new job last year as a children’s book consultant, but am still doing photography, too) and am working out, reading when I can, prioritizing family time, and just really, really happy.

I feel like I’m finally in this good place to come back here this little piece of the internet to embrace all of my bookish friends. I’m so sorry it’s been a while. I hope you’ve looked at our absence as a “See you later” instead of a “Goodbye.” I don’t think Estelle or I have it in us to completely cut off all writing, sharing, and reading, and I’m ever so thankful that despite the silence on the blog, I’ve had my friend to help me through lots of life chaos.

So…hello! Hi! How are you?

The Blasig Family (L to R): me, Gentry (1), Everett (3), and Dustyn

February 19, 2017 - 1:37 am

Melissa @ Writer Grrl Reads - This just brought tears to my eyes. You’re such an incredible woman, Magan, and I’m so awed by the way you life your life. You’re so warm and caring, and yet so real and so raw. Truly an inspiration to me.

February 14, 2017 - 3:59 pm

Emma - Welcome back! It feels so special to see snippets of your girls on your social media and I’m glad you are feeling like you’re in a better place now. Congratulations on your new job as well! Switching jobs is always stressful but this change sounds like an exciting one.

February 10, 2017 - 6:00 am

Lori - Oh Magan, I can relate to so much of this. I too have had that feeling of coming up for air with both of my boys. I’ve questioned whether or not I did have slight PPD with both…or maybe it’s just normal new motherhood/hormones stuff? Who knows, but it’s so nice to feel more like myself these days. I love this post and I’m so happy you guys are back! Reading and blogging are my ‘me’ time. I’m sure you could use a little bit of that too. 🙂

February 9, 2017 - 9:29 pm

Chrystal - Your babies have lovely names. Congrats on such a happy and beautiful family.

Your new job as children’s book consultant sounds interesitng. Going to have to look into that. 😉

February 9, 2017 - 5:40 pm

Magan - Thank you, Sarah! Congratulations to you! The transition is so hard, yeah? It’s like some of the BEST and HARDEST moments all wrapped up in one. I’m so happy to be back! I’ve really missed this! xo

February 9, 2017 - 4:41 pm

Sarah - I absolutely loved this post! I’ve just had my second child (now eight weeks old) and am totally feeling you. It’s lovely to see you back.

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About those January reads

My January was full of yoga, Twitter panic, LEA MICHELE, and a lot of Jane the Virgin. (I’m almost caught up on Season 2, finally!) So truth time. Magan and I announced we are back in some capacity, and we are still figuring out what exactly that capacity is. We’re playing it by ear, and I’m hoping by completing one of my fitness challenges will free up a little but more time for writing on here. We do hope you’ll follow along as we figure all of this out. But I popped on WordPress to talk books and HERE I AM.

I’m going to keep it simple. I’m sure you have lots to do. (Dishes? Nails? Paying attention to the holiday cards you still haven’t finished? Um. Not talking about me at all.) Focus, Estelle. Here are three books I hope you’ll check out super soon:

Wrecked by Maria PadianWrecked by Maria Padian / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / Since my November tropical vacation, I’ve been in a a reading rut. I’m blaming it on the election, but I think it started a wee bit before that. It was not until I picked up Wrecked that I felt I found my reading groove again. I don’t think you hear that kind of thing very often about books on rape but it’s true for this one. Told from the POVs of Haley, the victim’s roommate, and Richard, the accused housemate, Wrecked unveils the behind-the-scenes details of a full-on rape investigation on a small college campus and just how challenging these cases can be. The strategy, the bullying, the loneliness, and the fuzzy details. It takes real skill from an author to take a reader, so confident in what happened, and turn them into a ball of frustration because what they thought was true might not be so at all. This feeling, almost vulnerable-like, heightened the anxiety of every scene and made me even more obsessed to reach to the finale. I wish I had had this book in high school. I wish we had been discussing political correctness. I wish we were discussing consent. I fear too many will pass up Wrecked because of the difficult subject matter but, to me, that’s more reason to pick it up. We need knowledge. We need to be thoughtful. We need to be open to learning from each other. We need to respect each other. Now more than ever. | Young adult novel from Algonquin Young Readers (October 2016).

The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann HayduThe Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / I love when my favorite authors challenge me in new ways, and Corey has certainly done that in her latest YA book about a street in Brooklyn, bound in curses, tradition, love and grief. In this alternate version of our world, the main character, Lorna, and a few of her closest friends continue to reel from an attack in NYC that destroyed Times Square. The Affected are honored constantly; Lorna cannot escape this part of her story. Neither can she escape the “curse” of her street: that the boy she falls in love with will die. An older woman on the street tries to shield Lorna and her friends from love but this curse can’t keep feelings at bay. There’s so much to discuss in this beautiful and heartbreakingly layered book. What happens when you allow grief to run your life? What do we really know about love? How can we guarantee that love is real and we can keep those we love safe? It’s tough stuff, but, as always, Corey tells this story thoughtfully and with so many feelings and brilliant, little details. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. | Young adult novel from Dutton Books (January 2017).

Confessions with the Fat Girl by Liza PalmerConversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / As I await Liza Palmer’s upcoming book, I’m still working through her backlist and dug out this little gem. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of the cover and the title and I have a feeling if the book had been published in 2017, we might be looking at something a little different. Yes, this is a book about a girl who is overweight but her weight is hardly the whole focus of this story. Instead, we find a 26-year old at a total crossroads. Can Maggie remain best friends with her unsupportive childhood bestie (who, sidenote, also had gastric bypass surgery and pretends her younger years never happened)? Why the eff is she still working at a coffee shop when she wants to be working in a museum? Will she ever ask that cute guy out? I loved that this book asked the question: “If you can’t even choose yourself, how can anyone else?” IT’S A HARD QUESTION, and there is so much work for Maggie to do. And guess what? At 26, 32, 45, we may not still have our lives figured out but there doesn’t mean there isn’t time to make a change. We can only be good to others when we are good to ourselves. AND this has very little to do with our romantic love lives. Liza hit me where it hurts with the breakdown of Maggie and Olivia’s best friendship. It was so honest and it felt cathartic to see something so relative on the page. I love when books make you feel less alone, and soothes similar aches. A slow start but a strong, strong finish. | Contemporary fiction from 5 Spot (September 2005).

On the docket for me this month: The Odds of Lightning by Jocelyn Davies, The Grown Ups by Robin Antalek, and Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr.

Let’s see how this “plan” goes. Friends, hope to hear from you in the comments or on social! What book should I be adding to my nightstand? Or just send me some hearts. 🙂

February 4, 2017 - 10:48 am

Emma - I think a day-by-day approach to the blog is a great idea and even when there aren’t new posts here, I’ve been so happy to see new things from your and M on your Instagram or Twitter. Yay!

SO glad we read The Careful Undressing of Love around the same time and got to talk so much about it. Honestly, I feel like there are still things to say even after dissecting so much of it already.

I feel like Wrecked might not be a “me” book because I really don’t read to be stressed out which it sounds like might be inevitable with the subject matter. BUT I am making note of the title to recommend all over the place. And maybe I’ll get to it when I’m not into comfort reads. It also sounds like a great read-a-like for one of this year’s Printz Honors (Asking for It).

February 4, 2017 - 9:51 am

Lori - I have a copy of The Careful Undressing of Love. It sounds so unique and fascinating. I’m happy to hear that you liked it. I’ll have to check out the other 2 as well!

February 3, 2017 - 5:39 pm

Alexa S. - I really enjoyed THE CAREFUL UNDRESSING OF LOVE! As always, Corey brought a story that felt fresh, a story that really made me think about things like love and grief and the communities that shape us. I definitely loved it!

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366 days of silence (and then I talk too much)

I’ve been trying to write about my relationship with books in 2016 for the past week. I’ve scrolled through my list of top 10 books of the year — a list that has steadily remained at seven reads for the past few months — and tried to add others but fell short. I looked through notes I scribbled down in Goodreads when I was particularly jazzed about a read, and grew upset with myself for not being more detailed.

The question is: how do you measure your reading life after recording your reading life pretty routinely for almost five years and then stopping cold turkey?

The answer is: I’m not entirely sure.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie BuxbaumHere are a few things I could say: I read Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King because my boss at one of my side hustles sent me a galley. It utterly changed my reading life, and I immediately ordered a copy to send to my sister. I loved it so much that I was too shy to go up to Jeff when he traveled to New York City for one of my favorite annual events of all time: NYC Teen Authors Festival (a festival I never would have started attending if it wasn’t for this blog). I went on a job interview for a job I would eventually get after a weekend of being snowed in and talked up Courtney Summer’s All the Rage and Julie Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things. Both so wonderful for such different reasons. Later that summer, during Independent Bookstore Day, I convinced one of my oldest friends to buy a copy. On a long bus ride to the beach, Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LeGrand kept me company. It’s the perfect middle grade mix — magic mixed with realism, love mixed with confusion, and family paired with self-discovery. This was another doggy earred galley I left on my sister’s bed during a visit home. I picked up The First Time She Drowned because Jeff Zentner plugged it, was instantly taken by the beauty and pain of the book, and passed it along to a friend a few months later when her mom passed. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy read for her, but I also knew she had a lot of the strength the main character possessed and this was the best way I could tell her. And then there was a recommendation from the dependable Emma and the discovery of a brand new author: Leah Konen.Summer in the Invisible City by Juliana Romano The warm summer afternoon I gobbled up One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid and immediately passed it to my close friend from college. (It was a year of passing it on.) And the incredible second book by Juliana Romano, The Summer in the Invisible City, that had my hand yearning to write, pick up my own story, and challenge myself to write just as well. (Impossible but still. I was inspired and continued to be. You’ll be shocked to know I bought my sister a copy of this for Christmas. Note to self: has she read any of these yet?)

This is the first year in five years where I bought less than 12 book for myself in a year. This does not mean I didn’t buy a lot of books for others because I did. (Like the incredible and addicting middle grade from Natasha Friend: Where You’ll Find Me.) I read so many books from my own library, from stacks that line my apartment walls, and donated over 75 of them in one fashion or another. (There is one happy reader in my apartment building.) I stopped — we stopped — writing here for so many reasons but one of mine was to simplify. I thought if I took a break from here, I would be able to concentrate on other projects. More private ones. And I did. And I didn’t. And I rediscovered what it means to love a book and share it with your friends who understand you and not rush and not feel any pressure. I took out over 75 books from my library this year, I paid probably 50 dollars in fines, but I know I shopped thoughtfully this year. I reminded myself countlessly that there are a million ways to support authors, even if you aren’t buying a book as soon as it comes out. Hey, I even introduced my cube neighbor to Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I Loved Before and delighted in our conversations about if she was Team Peter or Team Josh. It was organic, and so fun! (Another note: just because a platform pauses/closes, doesn’t mean a voice stops recommending and encouraging people to buy your books.)

Where You2016 was not my best reading year. I put a lot of books down. I read 100 pages, and decided if I really didn’t want to pick a book up at night, what was it doing my nightstand? Like everything else that is a hobby, it’s okay to make those decisions. It’s okay to know your limits and want to FIND JOY. (I did finally read On the Island and I’m kicking myself because people have been singing its praises forever. Oh, and then Little Women — I tackled my goal of 26 years by actually finishing it.) My priorities may have shifted to personal projects and fitness and watching all seven season of Gilmore Girls, but I have missed this space. I know I’m lucky because I’ve been able to channel my love for this space and this community at work, and have a great time doing it. But I miss brainstorming and laughing with my friend over books; I miss having a project to gap our distance. For almost a year now, I’ve struggled with (and maybe this is what the age of digital is all about) who I am as a blogger and who I am as an actual publicist. (One of my proudest/scariest moments I had this year was speaking on a panel about blogging and my professional life at the wonderful BlogBound.) The support and incredible relationships I made because of this blog mean so much to me. I respect what you do because I’ve done it too. I know it’s a labor of love, and I know how much authors and the books we love need the genuine passion you express in whatever way you wish. This blog and all of the experiences connected to it have made me better at my job, it’s made me even more of a creative thinker, and it’s made me love the art of collaboration so much more than I ever have.

It’s a new year, and it feels right to be back here with Magan. We’re celebrating six years of friendship at the end of January, and I feel luckier than ever — to be surrounded by books, fierce and imaginative people, and the freedom to sit here and write this to you. I’m ready to learn more about others and myself too.

Here’s to 2017 — to reunions, rediscovery, and curiosity.

January 8, 2017 - 12:00 am

Retrospectively Reading (39) – The Reading Shelf - […] “366 Days of Silence (And Then I Talk Too Much)” @ Rather Be Reading […]

January 7, 2017 - 7:46 am

Leah - Yeah, I legit SHRIEKED. ♥

January 7, 2017 - 6:55 am

Rebecca - Welcome back! It sounds like you had a pretty great year – stress-free reading solely for fun and Gilmore Girls – here, here! Most of your 2016 favourites are on my TBR, but will check out Summer in the Invisible City 🙂

January 6, 2017 - 8:43 pm

Amaris (amarisafloria.com) - I love that you don’t keep any stories to yourself — every book seems to make you think of someone, and I want to adopt that to my reading life! Yay for returning 🙂

January 6, 2017 - 5:21 pm

April Books & Wine - Yay! I don’t think you even understand how thrilled I am to see this post pop up in my Bloglovin reader. I have missed your posts. It sounds like you had a pretty intentional year. I hear you about the library books taking pressure away — I am trying to get away from some review books and read more library books because it truly does feel like I am under no pressure. Anyways, welcome back!

January 5, 2017 - 7:36 pm

Chrystal - So happy to see your post. I found dead this refreshing and inspiring. The way you described books, passed them on to right person at the right time ever in beautiful and yay for library books! And yes to On the Island- one of my all time faves. Happy 2017!

January 4, 2017 - 9:09 pm

Cassie - THIS MADE MY WEEK. That is all! I love you both & your dynamic when blogging together is unparalleled, can’t WAIT to see what is next for you two!! HAPPY SIX YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP LADIES!!!

January 4, 2017 - 8:13 pm

Lori - I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see this post! Rather Be Reading was one of my favorite blogs and I was sad to come back from my motherhood fog and see you gone. I just added some books to Goodreads because of this post and I look forward to adding many more because of your recommendations.

January 4, 2017 - 4:22 pm

Meg - I miss blogging. I miss reading. I miss you. Still trying to get my own mojo back in so many ways, but I loved this post and am off to search for several of the books you mentioned — especially Tell Me Three Things. I read Buxbaum’s first book yearrrrrrrs ago and adored it, so I’m sure I will love this one, too!

January 4, 2017 - 2:53 pm

Mands @ The Bookish Manicurist - It’s great to see a new post from your blog, ladies! We all need a break from things we love sometimes 😉 xox

January 4, 2017 - 2:45 pm

Lauren @ Bookmark Lit - Ahhh this is so exciting!! SO glad to have you back 🙂

January 4, 2017 - 2:01 pm

Alexa S. - I may or may not have yelped really loudly on the 7 train this morning when I saw a tweet featuring a link to this post pop up on my phone. But seriously, I’m SO happy that the two of you are coming back to blogging! Not only were you two two of the first people I ever became friends with online, but I have always loved the way you guys run this blog and share your thoughts. Looking forward to all of your new posts <3

January 4, 2017 - 11:39 am

Tiff @ Mostly YA Lit - DYING OF HAPPINESS because you guys are back. I missed RBR! Thank goodness we’ve still been talking on Twitter bc I value your ideas and opinions so much. Can’t wait to see more thoughts from you.

Also, I really need to get to Tell Me Three Things and All the Rage.

January 4, 2017 - 11:23 am

Melissa @ Writer Grrl Reads - This post makes me happier than you can imagine!!! So glad to see you two are back! Although we’ve stayed in touch on social media, I’ve always loved your writing and your thoughtful posts and your book recommendations. Kudos to you both for taking a step back when you needed to, and for having the wisdom to know what was right for you in the moment. Can’t wait to sss what’s in store!

January 4, 2017 - 8:25 am

Andi - YOU’RE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Ladies in Read

Happy new year! (Throws confetti!!)

In my casual relationship during the work week with Twitter, I saw a few people mention reading primarily women authors in the new year. It soon led me to this post on Book Riot. Deciding to do something like this wouldn’t be such a change in pace for me — I find myself reading women almost exclusively for no reason except well those tend to be the books I pick up. Proof: 136 out of 152 book I read last year were by ladies. Even so, I realized I wanted to be more aware of this choice when it came to my reading and unofficially officially challenge myself to read more ladies across the genres — especially after last year (ha, two days ago!) brought books like Happiness for Beginners, Girl in the Mirror, and Maybe in Another Life into my universe when I needed the extra oomph to be my own advocate!

To be helpful for others who may want to embark on this women’s only challenge, I thought I would lend a few suggestions from my treasure trove of favorites and then offer up a few titles that are on my priority list for 2016. As always, here’s hoping you discover something new and fabulous!

highly recommended

Finding Someplace by Denise Patrickmiddle grade

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry: An oldie, but goodie. Anastasia is a writer and a dreamer, and I love how this old school book shows how much middle grade writing has changed over the years.

Jessica Darling’s IT List series by Megan McCafferty: Family, friends, and popularity come into play in the prequel to the beloved (at least to me) Jessica Darling series.

Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick: A young girl is caught in the middle of Hurricane Katrina and deals with the effects while discovering the true meaning of home.

young adult

Making PrettyVivian Apple by Katie Coyle by Corey Ann Haydu: Corey Ann never speaks down to her readers and writes with honesty about beauty, sisters, and mysteries of love in this NYC summer story. (Runner up: Life By Committee.)

Vivian Apple series by Katie Coyle: It’s the end of the world as Vivian and Harp know it… in this smart series filled with fierce friendship, family challenges, and a crazy religion sweeping the country, Coyle writes an engaging and chilling 2-book series.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert: Theo’s oldest friend returns four years after he’s been kidnapped, and the effects of their estrangement, her future in dance, and past memories bombard her in heartbreaking, and difficult ways.

Kissing Ted Callahan Amy Spalding: One of the rare YA books that comes jam-packed with laughs as a main character navigates a messy love life, kisses a bunch of boys, and is semi-competing with her over the top best friend in finding a relationship. (Runner up: The Reece Malcolm Project.)

What You Left Behind by Jessi Verdi: A young dad (in his senior year of high school) left to piece together his deceased girlfriend’s secrets through her diary.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should FeelYoung Widows Club by Alex Coutts by Sara Farizan: A main character who is constantly feeling misunderstood by her peers (she’s Persian not Latina!) and dealing with feelings for the new girl in school.

Young Widows Club by Alexandra Coutts: A great look at an unconventional love story, its ending, and what happens after… before the main character has even graduated high school.

Hundred Oaks series by Miranda Kenneally: Looking for strong, nuanced female main characters? This series is sure to satisfy as the characters deal with money, the future, death, religion, friendships, and love of all kinds in a small town. A plus: every book feels like a family reunion (and they can be read out of order).

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Dollar: A main character reunited with the father and family her mother turned her against complete with a cast of a fabulous Greek family, a backdrop near the sea, and sexy love connection. All while dealing with a past that doesn’t want to be buried. (Runner up: The Devil You Know).

contemporary fiction

The Wonder SpotNight Blindness by Susan Strecker by Melissa Bank: A black sheep’s “quest for her identity” through 25 years of her life.

Night Blindness by Susan Strecker: Jensen is forced to go home again when her dad is diagnosed with a brain tumor. She’s also reunited with her ex, her own horrible secret, and the realization that she might not be quite so happy with many factors in her life.

The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard: Contemporary fiction with a flashback pinpointing when Kirsten’s brother s accused of murder and her family’s future is forever changed.

Steal the North by Heather Bergstrom: The Pacific Northwest is the backdrop in this novel about family secrets, religion, and young love.

The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase: For those who love binge watching HGTV, Austin, Texas, and second chance love stories.

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume: A journey through the years of two unlikely childhood best friends.


Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett (a memoir): A tale of friendship between two college friends and their journeys into writing.

What Remains by Carole Radziwill (a memoir): Before she was a housewife of NYC, Carole fell in love and married a prince, and was best friends with JFK Jr’s wife. This book tells the story of her husband’s cancer and losing her best friends in a plane crash. (Tissues in hand, people!)

on my reading list

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow PlaceNegroland: a Memoir by Margo Jefferson by Julie Berry: This book was gifted to me last Christmas by Hannah of So Obsessed With Blog who called the book “tale of murder and mayhem is ultimately an ode to friendship and fun”.

Something Real by Heather Demetrios: A child who grew up on TV on a reality show trying to live a normal life until a TV reunion of the show is announced.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers: (YA; St. Martin’s Press; 2015): A girl from “the wrong side” of town” and the sheriff’s son/golden boy in a book about truth and sexual violence.

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu: (YA, Roaring Brook Press, 2014): Another highly recommended novel about four high school students about slut-shaming, bullying, and death.

The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez (YA, Simon Pulse, 2012): Two sisters, and secrets.

Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin (Fiction, Plume, 2013 ): “A portrait of friendship and identity”.

The Disenchantments by Nina LeCour (YA, Dutton,2012): A road trip, a band, and some unrequited love.

NegrolandBig Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert by Margo Jefferson (Memoir, Pantheon, 2015): Full disclosure that Margo Jefferson is one of my favorite college professors but I’m so looking forward to diving into her latest book about growing up in Chicago amongst “the colored elite” — as she calls it.

Wendy and the Lost Boys: The Uncommon Life of Wendy Wasserstein by Julie Salamon (Biography, Penguin Press, 2011): A look at the gone too soon playwright of The Heidi Chronicles.

Big Magic: Creative Life Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (Non-fiction, Riverhead Books, 2015): I’ve been enjoying the Big Magic podcast, and I’m looking forward to the book that started it all to give me a little push in a creative direction.

Whew! I’m ready to get started. I’d love to hear your books by awesome ladies recs (especially non-fic since I’m lacking in that department)!

Psst. Turns out all the books that most impacted me in 2015 were by females so you may want to stop by and read that too!

October 10, 2016 - 7:02 am

Rachana - Thanks for the great recs! I loved Pointe and What You Left Behind too! As for recommendations of my own, I mostly read YA so here a few YA books by female authors I love: When The Moon Was Ours, The Forbidden Wish, Since You’ve Been Gone, The Star-Touched Queen, and Six of Crows.

June 12, 2016 - 6:45 pm

Cara - Where have you guys been? I’ve missed reading your posts! Hope everyone is doing ok!! 🙂

February 7, 2016 - 10:05 pm

Hilari - Ooh! Just found your blog and love the first post! I’ve got a lot to add to my TBR list….

I keep walking by Dumplin’ on the bookshelves and in the libraries. I’ll wait to hear what you have to say about the book before I add it to the list though. It came up as a GoodReads suggestion for me, and the description didn’t sound all that intriguing to be honest. But it seems to be a popular title – maybe I should give it a go.

January 2, 2016 - 12:28 pm

Maggie @ Just a Couple More Pages - Even though I’m seeing you in an hour I will undoubtably forget to tell you these things if I don’t say them now…

WHY CAN’T I BE YOU is one of my all-time favorite books (maybe top 2? or 3?) so I cannot wait to hear what you think of it. I might need to re-read.

And I’ve owned (big deal for me as you know) The Space Between Us for years and haven’t read it. Maybe we can read together.

January 2, 2016 - 9:36 am

April Books & Wine - What Remains actually sounds really good. ALSO YES SHOUTOUT ANASTASIA KRUPNIK. There was a time when I was a middle schooler and constantly borrowing those books from the library.


Big Magic looks like it will be good — I added it the other day on Audible to my wishlist and seeing it here, even if it’s on your to read, fortifies that choice.

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What This Book Gave To Me

You know when you have a trilogy and the second movie (unfortunately) feels like it exists just to get to the final installment? That’s a little bit of what this year has felt like. Some progress, a few steps back, major happy moments, and some really disappointing ones.  I think 2015 may have existed just to push me toward the next year, so with that understanding, fingers crossed for 2016 to be a bit more… steady and wonderful.

As always, books have continued to be my anchor when I needed to escape the real world and my gosh, there were so many fantastic ones this year. There were definitely some standouts — and not in a top 10 of the year kind of way — but more of a “oh my god this book is saving me and I didn’t even know I needed to be saved kind of way”. So that’s what this post is about — how powerful and emotional and impactful some titles have been for me this year. I hope it gets you thinking the books in your life that made you feel similarly this year.

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine CenterHappiness for Beginners by Katherine Center seems like the logical place to start. The main character needs to escape the blah realities of her current situation and embarks on something totally out of her comfort zone — which means she sucks at it for awhile but learns about her so much along the way. Halfway through the year, I started a new workout and nutrition regime, and surprisingly, fell in love with yoga. It’s not the same as hiking in the great outdoors for a number of days on end, but it definitely felt like it. Feeling strong, seeing my body change, and realizing I had discovered a habit that actually calmed me? Priceless.

In keeping with the highs of the year, both Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer and Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid made me think of the steady females in my life (the golden old ones, and the surprising new ones) who lend me support and make me better. (I shine if you shine!) They also reminded me how the tiniest decisions can have the greatest impact on the directions of our lives and there’s no life roadmap we have to follow step by step; it takes time to find our ways, it takes mistakes to get us where we are going and we are that much better for our blunders.

First There Was Forever by Juliana RomanoSpeaking of blunders, I spent way too much time this year asking myself what I did wrong for certain situations to turn out like they did. Even when I tried to forget or let it go, they popped up again and again, and while these events have contributed to the hurt and insecurity that has plagued me more than I care to admit, I do wonder if these moments have led me to realize that 1] friendships work when a person can switch off between being the supporter and the supportee (Tonight the Streets are Ours by Leila Sales is the first YA novel where I related more to the mom than the young main character) 2] forgiveness is the key to a long, nuanced friendship (Molly and Imogene in 99 Days by Katie Cotugno are on point, as are Willowdean and Ellen in Dumplin’)  3] there’s truth to the saying that some are only meant to be in your life for a sliver of time (First There Was Forever by Juliana Romano), and this truth is something you have to train yourself to believe time and time again, and 4] brand new friendships can be scary but so worth it (Feeling Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty).

In a steady string of books about sisters this year, and in the same year, that my mom lost her sister, these tales (This Raging Light by Estelle Laure; Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt; Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu) comforted me because they nailed the bond between two people who are brought up to love one another but also be separate people with their own story. Family is this funny thing; we all know that. Things can go from great to prickly in a matter of minutes; suddenly you are walking on eggshells when all you want to do is laugh and just relax together up against a confusing and unpredictable outside world. You know each other so well; it’s so easy to hurt each other too. Your relationship is this constant battle of finding balance in pleasing the other without doing exactly what the other wants you to do. Does that make sense? I’m still figuring it out myself…

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. SmithAnd lastly to three books that reminded me of how emotional reading can be… I finished Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith while waiting out a delayed flight back home from visiting my dear friend, Magan. This book made me weep because I recognized the control the main character wanted in regarded to her future. Would she be friends with the same people once she left for college? Would she love the same boy? I may be far away from that time in my life, but the series of greetings and so longs comes just as steadily, and often, unplanned these days. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin hits on final moments too — the kind you never want to revisit but are forced to — even if you work so hard to prolong the inevitable. But there is hope. And Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead — a book that felt as familiar as cocoa on a warm winter’s night and a movie night with your best gal pals — reminds us that the sad times and the uncomfy-ness of change can also uncover new bonds, new moments to laugh about, and new sides of ourselves yet to unveiled. Siblings have your back, your friendships evolve but remain constant, and we are all on this Earth to do something special, be special to somebody.

A heartfelt thanks to the above authors who challenged my emotions, made me feel like I had someone in my corner, and improved my ability to be not only a compassionate reader but a more compassionate person.

March 9, 2016 - 11:39 pm

margaret - So pleased to have found your site. You’ve got such a great list of women’s lit. So many books so little time! Hope I can lend a comment some time soon.

January 3, 2016 - 7:48 am

Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity - I adored this post, it’s so easy to forget the impact different books can have on people, especially if you happen to read it at exactly the right moment for some of the lessons in the book to be relevant to your life at that time. I really enjoyed reading this post and how different books have had an impact for you. The books which stay with you long after reading are the best books, the ones which have an emotional impact on you, even if you don’t always know why until much later.

I think that’s why we all love reading so much, books can have a real impact, but they can also help support you when you need it and all they need to do is exist for you to read the words on the page. I don’t think people speak up enough about how beneficial books are to people’s emotional well being.

January 2, 2016 - 8:02 am

Ladies in Read, Estelle - […] What This Book Gave To Me […]

January 1, 2016 - 7:24 pm

Ginger @ GReads! - The best stories, in my opinion, are the ones that make you think… long after you’ve turned that last page. I think that’s why I love contemporary YA so much because of all the different themes I can relate to, or make me truly think about. This is such a beautiful post and I love your honesty in how each of these novels made you feel and reflect, and just be. Aren’t books amazing that way?!

December 31, 2015 - 1:52 pm

Lisa @ Reading, Writing, and Random Musings - I absolutely love this post! I can so identify with so much of what you said. I find that some of the books that stay with me for a long time are those that speak to me based on what is happening in my current life when I read them. I had a 9 year relationship end at the beginning of 2015, and some of the books that you mentioned above (particularly Girl Before a Mirror and Happiness for Beginners) really touched me because of the messages that both books sent. May 2016 be filled with much love, laughter, and happiness for you!

December 31, 2015 - 10:56 am

Alexa S. - E, as always, your writing is lovely and expresses your thoughts perfectly! I love that you highlighted all these books that inspired you, challenged you, made you feel things. Wishing you a wonderful 2016 <3

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Happy Release Day, Kristan Higgins!

I’ve read four out of the five of the Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins, and over the course of two years, I’ve always been curious about Connor O’Rourke. He was wise-talking, totally mysterious, and always teasing his twin sister, Colleen. She was even stumped by him. So I’ve been really excited to get Connor’s story, and Higgins did not disappoint with Anything For You (out today!). The highlight of this book was the timeline. We start with the present, a denied proposal, and then journey back to the very, very beginning of the “friendship” between Connor and Jess.

Anything for You by Kristan HigginsReaders can always depend on Higgins to create multi-layered character backstories and her development of Jess was on point. Right away, Jess reminded me of Laura Linney’s character in Love Actually; she has a disabled younger brother and is mainly responsible for him. Unlike Laura Linney’s, Jess’ parents are alcoholics and her childhood is filled with working more than one job, sacrificing her own school events and college to look out for her brother, and keeping them both safe from their parents and their unpredictable whims. The bright light in her life is always her brother, Davey, and then in an unexpected reunion: Connor.

Kind of. Jess understandably has trust issues. Davey is her number 1 priority, and even though she knows Connor is different than any of the other guys she has spent time with — that’s my one qualm about this book: readers are constantly and unnecessarily reminded of Jess and her promiscuity — the two can’t seem to make a full-fledged relationship work.

In romance novels, we know half the fun is getting to the happily ever after and I really enjoyed getting to know these two characters through their own personal challenges and the series of events that kept bringing them back to one another. Plus there was something so sweet about learning how a series landmark — O’Rourke’s — was born. Finding out these little details definitely made the Blue Heron series come full circle. Anything for You was the perfect respite after a busy few days, full of loyal supporting characters, forgiveness, acceptance, and a couple who deserved the chance to make each other happy.

rather be reading worth it icon

Anything for You (Blue Heron #5) by Kristan Higgins
will be published on December 29, 2015 by Harlequin HQN Books.
384 Pages | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

December 29, 2015 - 11:48 am

Alexa S. - I do love a good romance! ANYTHING FOR YOU sounds lovely, though I will probably wait until I’ve read the rest of the series to read it myself. 🙂

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